Chrysler's ENVI program is, as we know it,  is gone.  But the electrification of vehicles in their lineup is not completely out of the picture.  A few months back, Chrysler officially announced that their ENVI program would be rolled into standard development and the ENVI group vanished.  Several vehicles that were part of the program will now likely never see production.  However, one vehicle in particular that has been discussed for awhile now will at least see limited availability.

The Dodge Ram PHEV test program was recently announced.  The plug-in will be based off of the two mode hybrid Ram that Dodge is launching next year.  The PHEV is expected to be in use by fleets sometime in 2011.  The PHEV will undergo real-world testing and in lab testing.  The lab for testing the PHEV Ram will be built at the University of Michigan's Dearborn campus.

As a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn myself, this story is of course compelling for many reasons, but for those unfamiliar with the university, it's a small branch directly associated with the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus.  Funding for the lab will come from Chrysler.  Chrysler will give UM-D $3.1 million out of the $48 million grant it received from the federal government for plug-in vehicle development.  The lab will be developed with the help of Professor Chris Mi of UM-D.  The labs focus will be on testing batteries, electronics, motors, and control systems for the PHEV Ram.

As Mi explains, ""Power management will be one of the key challenges in this development- how you minimize fuel consumption for different driver behavior and different driving scenarios with a fixed battery pack.  Another challenge is the safety and reliability of the vehicle system with a large, lithium ion battery pack."

Professor Mi has listed some lofty goals for the plug-in vehicle.  Quoted directly from the UM-D press release, "Mi's proposal calls for a Ram Crew 1500 that is "the only plug-in hybrid truck available," and the "only full-sized truck with advanced technology partial zero emission," among other features.  The truck would have a next generation lithium ion battery with charge times of two to four hours at 220 volts, or four to six hours at 110 volts; a full hybrid system function without plug-in; a range of 655 miles; and a regenerative braking system."

The truck looks promising and perhaps if fleet testing is successful it could see mass production.  Though the truck is at least a year away from ready, we are eagerly awaiting the world's only light duty plug-in hybrid truck.  It has the potential to become a market altering vehicle.

Source:  University of Michigan-Dearborn